Physician executive and entrepreneur Paul Janssen, M.D., 77, founder of the pharmaceutical research firm Janssen Pharmaceutica and the developer of five drugs on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines, died Nov. 14 in Rome, where he was attending a scientific conference.
According to a statement by Johnson & Johnson, which acquired Janssen's company in 1961, the researcher, who lived in Vosselaar, Belgium, led the company to acquire more than 100 patents and introduce more than 80 new medicines, including the psychiatric blockbuster drugs Haldol and Risperdal.
"If you look back on the 20th century, I don't know of anybody else who has laid down that track record," says friend and colleague Paul Stoffels, M.D., who heads the HIV research group at Janssen Pharmaceutica.
Stoffels says Janssen hired him in 1987 and immediately dispatched him to Africa to work with Janssen on developing drugs for several infectious tropical diseases. It was indicative of Janssen?s passion, Stoffels says, which was using his talent and organizational skills to make a real difference on a global scale.
"He was focused on the big problems in the world," Stoffels says. "That's what fascinated him."
He said Janssen knew the drug development business "from A to Z" and said Janssen was a Renaissance man, a genius fluent in six languages who played piano and read six hours a day to keep abreast of his field. "He was the best-informed person about every aspect of science I've ever met in my life," Stoffels says
Janssen studied in Belgium at the Faculte Notre Dame de la Paix and the University of Louvain, Belgium, graduating magna cum laude from the State University of Ghent in 1951. He later served as a military physician in the Belgian army.
In 1953, at age 27, Janssen started a small medical research laboratory at his father's pharmaceutical importing company in Turnhout, Belgium, and marketed his firm's first medicine four years later. His teams discovered medicines in anesthesia and pain management, psychiatry, mycology and gastroenterology.
The winner of numerous awards and the recipient of 17 honorary degrees, Janssen was appointed consulting professor in dermatology at Stanford University (1994-96) and received the Pioneer in Science Award from the U.S. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (1995).
Janssen is survived by his wife, two sons, three daughters, a sister and several grandchildren.